Monday, February 6, 2012

Purity Month | The Purebred Paradox

"An MRI revealed the painful truth about the Cavalier King Charles spaniel Pfeiffer had bought at a pet store: At less than a year old, Daisy had syringomyelia, a condition in which fluid-filled cavities occur within the spinal cord near the brain." -- Carrie Allan, All Animals Magazine

[February was named after the Latin term februum, meaning purification. Februa, or Februatio, was the Roman festival of ritual purification based on washing or cleaning, held on February 15 (full moon) in the old lunar Roman calendar. From purification rituals throughout history to the importance of pure substances in science and technology, from the issues surrounding ecosystem purity to the growing interest in pure foods, the concept of purity in its various forms is the focus of Purity Month on 13.7 Billion Years. Have a suggestion? Send an email to]

Purebred animals are always in high demand, none more so perhaps than dogs. But this is one instance where purity is bad thing.

"The main problem with purebreds stems from the simple fact that to create a purebred puppy you need two dogs from the exact same gene pool," according to "This gene pool is already limited, but many breeders will use dogs from the same family gene pool to create more dogs (inbreeding). Dog clubs often require that their dogs be bred within the same club, which again ends up severely limiting the gene pool variety. As many of these gene pools are limited or closed, the risk of genetic defects rises significantly with each successive coupling."

"Though the dogs who compete at Westminster [Kennel Club Dog Show] are beautiful and most are likely healthy, the rise of such spectacles—and judging measures that in some cases emphasize appearance over welfare—has been blamed for a host of genetic health problems facing scores of breeds today," writes Carrie Allan in an article entitled "The Purebred Paradox" in the magazine All Animals, published by the Humane Society of the United States.

"Brachycephalic (or short-faced) breeds like bulldogs and pugs suffer from breathing problems; Great Danes and other large dogs from joint problems; long dogs like dachshunds and basset hounds from back problems; wrinkly-faced dogs like boxers and shar-peis from skin and eye problems. And due to prolific production to meet public demand, the most coveted dogs tend to have the most genetic disorders; Labrador retrievers, who’ve topped the AKC’s popularity list for 19 years, are prone to around 50 inherited conditions."

Also, social aggression is more common in purebreds than in mixed breeds, according to the ASPCA.

Thinking about becoming a dog guardian? If you stay away from puppies sold at pet stores, you won't be supporting cruel puppy mills. Go to your municipal dog pound or shelter. Save a mixed-breed (i.e., a mutt) from death row. Society has placed a greater value on purebreds than mixed breeds. In fact, ethically and medically speaking, the reverse should be the case.

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image: Cavalier King Charles spaniel (credit: kookykrys, Flickr Creative Commons)

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